bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sweet pokers

Ugandan chimps use honey dip-sticks made of twigs or vines to raid the nests of African and stingless bees. Native Americans are also known to have used similar techniques.

From a scienceblog post on the co-existence of stingless and African bees in a Ugandan nature reserve. Hat tip to Rufus.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Honey spiral

Here's a treat from William Michael Connolley:

Sunday, February 26, 2006


There's a newish varroa management booklet from DEFRA (UK Government) and I'm very impressed. It gives a number of components of Integrated Pest Management from chemical treatments to queen-caging and drone-trapping. You can download it here (fairly large pdf file).

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Underground bees

A bee nest is claimed to be under a third of a garden in Orlando, Florida. I think they are mistaking it for a cluster of individual nests of solitary bees.

Almond growers going nuts

It's been an exciting almond pollination season in California. The weather started fine, then went cold and now another storm threatens. Some beekeepers who rushed to the state to cash-in on the well-publicised bee shortage were disappointed not to get the rates they expected because their colonies were said not to be top-notch.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bin Laden's honey

A blog post about honey from the Washington Post (no less) talks about honey from Osama bin Laden's hometown in the Yemen:

the country's best honey that comes from Hadramaut, the ancestral hometown of Osama bin Laden.
So why couldn't he have become a beekeeper!

Newspaper fit for purpose

This may be a few months late, but it's worth repeating:

The Guardian, arguably Britain's best newspaper, changes its size last autumn, shrinking from a cumbersome broadsheet to a very public transport-friendly Berliner size (not a tabloid size!). A well-known beekeeper responded in the letters column:
As a beekeeper for 44 years, I know the dimensions of British hives demand a broadsheet-size paper to unite two colonies (the bees chew through it). I had my fears about the Berliner, but it works perfectly. I am sure the balanced reporting also makes for peaceful bees.
Adrian Waring
Kettering, Northants

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What better place to ge stung?

Africanized bees attacked six patients of the Carenage Health Centre, Trinidad yesterday. The odd thing is that four of them were then taken to Port of Spain General Hospital!

According to one report, in 1979-1990, Africanized bees had stung 3,955 humans in Trinidad with 10 deaths, and 1,071 domestic animals, with 715 deaths.

Kissing with propolis

Brazilian carnival revellers -- who enjoy a bit of free-for-all French kissing -- are being encouraged to use a propolis mouth spray for hygienic purposes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Six degrees from being overdone

It used to be thought that bees clustered around their enemies to sting them to death. But they can raise the temperature at the core of the cluster and cook 'em instead.

I've seen a hornet baked to death by my bees, but how come the bees don't cook themselves? Chinese researchers have been on the job:

To check the bees' and wasps' tolerance for heat, researchers then caged each of the species in incubators and systematically cranked up the temperature. The wasps died at 45.7°C, but the Asian honeybees survived heat to 50.7°C and the European bees made it to 51.8°C.

The native Asian bees, ancient adversaries of the wasps, mobilized half again as many defenders into a heat ball as the European bees did, the researchers report. Furthermore, Asian bees not mobbing the wasp were more likely to take shelter during an attack than bystander European bees were.

Heat balling is the flip side of bees nursing larvae in a nest, says Seeley. To keep the youngsters at the right temperature in cool weather, honeybees space themselves around the nursery and shiver their powerful flight muscles to generate heat. Seeley notes, however, that the nursemaids don't raise the temperature above 36°C, so the brood stays safe.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bees pick on medics

A medical conference was disrupted by a bee attack in India today. Four medics were treated in emergency and the rest were terrified:

At 11.30 am a cook ignited the tandoor on the corridor and smoke emanated from it infuriated the honey bees which were resting in their beehive near the place where the tandoor was kept.

Soon, hundreds of honey bees entered the conference room and started targeting the doctors and some medical representatives present there. In what could be best described as the scene of a comedy movie, the doctors panicked started taking refuge under the tables and chairs kept in the conference hall. However, their efforts came to naught as the honeybees continued to attack till the delegates vacated.

... Other doctors said after seeing honeybees hundreds in number, they hid beneath the tables and chairs, but that did not help.

Though seminar began after two hours, the doctors were seen concentrating on various entry points rather than paying attention to the conference.

Melon watch

The UK -- and indeed Europe -- still seems to be free of the small hive beetle (SHB), and the bee inspectorate in Britain is keeping a special watch in particular places for the nasty invader.

Since SHB can live off a bee for about 40 days and can travel in fruit, beehives around ports are a special focus. Interestingly, the areas around US military bases are also under a closer scrutiny because it seems that the US forces import foodstuffs without much regard for national regulations. They like melons in particular -- and so does the SHB.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The almond rush

Posts on Bee_L seem to suggest that California's almond pollination crisis has turned very messy this year.

Like a second gold rush, beekeepers from all over the US have poured into California with their bees to try to obtain the high pollination rates quoted, only to find that brokers (yes, there are almond pollination brokers) are paying less claiming the colonies aren't strong enough to command the quoted rates. Many beekeepers are feeling aggrieved ...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Beekeeping to keep Nigerian youth from stinging

Youths to be employed in construction of a tourist resort in Nigeria will be encouraged to take up beekeeping when the work is finished “as a way of curbing youth restiveness”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The third biggest honey supplier to the US

Who is the third biggest supplier of honey to the USA?

Viet Nam claims the honour. It says it is third to China and Canada.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Yes, it's St Valentine's Day

So ...
Or for wasps out there.

Monday, February 13, 2006

National Honey Week

It's National Honey Week in the UK. Beekeeper invades local health store.Posted by Picasa

Increasing despite halving

Varroa and hurricanes may have halved Jamaica's beekeepers in the past 18 years, but honey production has increased slightly because of improved techniques. And the price of honey has quadrupled.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Philately gets you everywhere

I came across this on eBay from happier days in Zimbabwe -- April 1988.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The truth will out

New Zealand's National Beekeepers Association (NBA) is protesting that honey may soon be imported into the country. A biosecurity risk analysis has concluded that the risks of importing disease aren't that high. The beekeepers' argument seems pure protectionism.

Since varroa arrived in the North Island, the country has lost 1990 beekeepers, 3171 apiaries and 27,314 hives. The NBA fears more losses with resulting impacts on pollination, lower honey prices etc.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Propolis enters its third year

How do two-year-olds celebrate their birthday? It's party time for Propolis! This is the 793rd post (in case you're interested).

Bee ready for Valentine's day

Celebrate St Valentine's Day in style this year say the producers of Canadian Bee Maid honey:

With Bee Maid honey and products from the hive, you have all you need to enjoy a relaxing, elegant and intimate evening. By the light of natural beeswax candles, share a glass or two of Passion Potion with appetizers of Broiled Shrimp with Honey-lime Marinade. For a main course, enjoy an exotic meal of Pomegranate-Honey Roasted Chicken Breasts, Rice Indonesian and Honeyed Carrots. Dip fruit and Honey Valentine Cookies in Creamy Chocolate Honey Decadence while enjoying a Lavender Honey Milk Bath for a dessert with a difference. End the evening with a steaming cup of Honey Hot Chocolate or Spiced Honey Coffee while you watch Casablanca. With Bee Maid honey, this is the year to say "Bee Mine" with style.
Isn't that sweet?

Beekeeping dynasties

I wonder what family holds the record for professional beekeeping through the generations. Here's a four-generation business from Canada that has just won a Nipawin Heritage award:

Knox Apiaries began their bee keeping business in Orono, Ontario in 1875. The business came to Nipawin in 1959 when Bob and Gayle Knox moved here with 400 colonies of bees. Their son Mark, a fourth generation bee keeper, joined the family business in 1984 and now runs 2,200 colonies with his wife and daughters. They employ four people from April to November and an additional 15 to 16 students for the summer extracting period.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Slack supply and high demand in Californian almond groves

As Californian almond pollination prices rise inexorably (latest: $100 to $150 per hive) as the season starts, some worry about the quality of the colonies being shipped in:

“A lot of ‘junk’ hives are coming out here from the East Coast. Some of these hives have low populations of bees or no bees,” said beekeeper Shannon Wooten of Palo Cedro in Shasta County. “Some of these bees have been sitting here for 90 days. Bees are flying around but they are not producing because they are not being managed.”

Monday, February 06, 2006

A good bee story in February is hard to find!

In a truly dull news release, (about honey tanks) comes a little vignette of honey packing in Britain. Bear in mind this is the largest honey operation in the UK. They deal almost exclusively in imported products.

The Rowse Honey Company was established in 1954 and became limited in 1971 to form Rowse Honey Ltd. Now employing over 100 people, with a turnover of £35m, Rowse is the UK's brand leader in honey and pure maple syrups, and a major provider of lemon curd and chocolate sauces, supplying all sectors of the food business.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tourists bothered by nature

An Indian hotel, the Clarks Amer in Jaipur, has landed itself in trouble for killing bees (and allegedly a few birds) that were supposedly bothering tourists.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Losing weight while you sleep -- yeah right!

As if there aren't enough faddish diets around, here's another that says you should eat honey before you go to bed to lose weight. It's supposed to help burn fat while you sleep. Called the Hibernation Diet, it's been hailed as the new Atkins Diet (which just about tells me everything I need to know).

Whatever happened to the ALBOE diet -- a litle bit of everything?

Meantime, here's some bedtime reading:
Substituting Honey for Refined Carbohydrates Protects Rats from Hypertriglyceridemic and Prooxidative Effects of Fructose.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Utah, bees, beehives & mormons

A bit more on why Utah, the US state, has a beehive as its motif (first post here):

... the root of the Utah obsession with the beehive is Mormon iconography, in which the beehive is a symbol of the Kingdom of God, a harmonious society ruled by the Creator. That is why the beehive appears on door knobs in the Salt Lake LDS Temple under the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” That is why Brigham Young called his home the Beehive House. And that is why the beehive found its way onto the state flag and state seal.